Sunday, 28 September 2014

I went to the Chilli Farm (again) and bought...

A couple of weeks ago myself and my good lady razzed up the A140 in search chuckles and whatnot in Norfolk, as is LAW in this house the journey demanded a stop off at the Chilli Farm in Mendlesham.  We decided to grab some lunch from the awesome Deli restaurant and while we waited for our grub I bipped over to the sauce shop for a stock up.  Before we get onto that I thought you might like to see the menu board at the restaurant.

The selection of chilli sauces available at the chilli farm seems to be expanding all the time, so I had to make some fairly arbitrary choices, based more on whim than anything else, but I'll do my best to try and explain my actions anyway.

From left to right...

Korean Crackers
I have no idea what these actually are, but they're really nice, and have a heat that doesn't catch you until you've stuffed about ten of them in your cake hole.  Not ten at once.  Maybe.

Total wild-card this one, it looks like some snake meat that I tried when I was a teenager (and loved) but it also looks like leather.  This might have to be an end of a beery evening type snack.

Salsa Verde
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before on this blog, it may look like snot but combine with some dipping crackers and you've got a damned fine snack.

CA Johns Reserve Apple Smoke Bourbon
This was partly bought because there's a whole lot in that bottle for the money it costs!  There's not much heat to this sauce but it's deliciously smokey, absolute bliss on a burger.

Chilli Farm Smoky Chilli Sauce
This was on clearance, and is worth much more than the quid it cost me!  It's not my favourite chipotle type smokey ketchup but for a quid you really can't go wrong. I think this sometimes pops up in supermarkets.

Blair's Original Death Sauce
Much like 'Dave's' sauces 'Blairs' sauces come in a bewildering array of varieties so it's hard to know which to try first.  Well at least it would be if the producer wasn't kind enough to have a bottle named 'ORIGINAL'.  This Death Sauce has really swiftly become a favourite of mine, I can't yet put my finger on why, but when I do I'm sure I'll blog about it.  This sauce came with a neat little skull keyring as a freebie.

After lunch had arrived and had been consumed I decided I couldn't resist another quick look at the chilli sauce selection, and that quick look resulted in a second haul of goodies.

So here we go again, in a roughly left to right order:

Chilli bread mix
My wife has just got a bread maker, which we LOVE, so chilli bread mix was just too tempting.

Dave's Temporary Insanity Sauce
Dave's 'standard' Insanity Sauce is a concoction that I really shouldn't like as much as I do, partly because it contains chilli extracts (to boost pain) and also because if I have more than two or three drops on anything I spend the next day feeling like I've been kicked in the guts by a donkey who I've wronged in some way.  So I decided to try out the milder version, and I'm glad I did!  I can eat this one without my eyes bleeding and getting a loud buzzing noise in my ears.

Dave's Insanity Sauce
I bought this as a gift for a friend.

Dipping crackers with hot pepper
I really love these crackers, and after all, I needed something to dip in the salsa verde I bought in my first haul!

Cottage Delight
This is a standard must-have sauce in my house.  I won't rattle my gums about it here, but if you want to find out why I love this so much then go HERE....

The Cambridge Chilli Sauce Company - Smoky Chipotle Chilli Sauce
This was another store cupboard essential I was stocking up on.  This chipotle sauce is so good I could pretty much drink it straight from the bottle!  Full review here...

So there you have it, all in all another very successful visit for every reason other than my diminishing bank account!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I met a chilli sauce hero at Hyde Hall!

Today I dragged my ever-tolerant family to the Chilli weekend at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex, my wife is a professional gardener and Royal Horticultural Society member so I have to be honest and admit the idea was hers entirely.  She knew the fact they had a chilli weekend would lure me out of bed on a Saturday morning and so there I was, half-asleep being transported down the A12 with the promise of chilli related fun.  Fun and 'early morning' are not two words I usually associate with each other.

When we arrived at what I thought was a 'chilli festival' but turned out to be a 'chilli weekend' I found a few marquees and a live band punting out passable versions of the kinda songs we all like to tunelessly mumble along to.  Because we were on hallowed horticultural ground I was expecting the exhibitors to be a mix of plantsmen (and women) and chilli sauce sorcerers, which they were.  Sort of.

There was a fine selection of folk to advise those who wish to grow their own chillies, a few curry spice suppliers (who sadly I didn't have time to visit) but there was just once stall selling hot sauce.  It was a little disappointing from the perspective of a chilli sauce fan, but the fantastic surroundings made it almost impossible to be disappointed with anything at all.  When I saw who the sole sauce seller was there was absolutely no way I was anything other than chuffed daft!  So who was the only fella there selling chilli sauce?  Read on my friend...

Hyde Hall Chilli Weekend.

I met the master of bhut jolokia death!

In my long and mostly mundane past I've met a few mainstream famous folk, interviewed them, worked for them etc etc etc but I've never been terribly starstruck.  Today I met the man behind Norfolk Heatwave, creator of the ESSENTIAL ' Caribbean Certain Death Ultra Hot Chilli Sauce'.  This is a sauce that I hold in such high-regard it's almost a little embarrassing.  Norfolk Heatwave are all over this blog like a cheerful rash, and today I actually got to meet the man behind one of the best chilli sauces on the planet.

Sadly I didn't get much of a chance to chat - I've run exhibition stalls many times myself in the past so I was very aware that it would be very unfair to take up too much of his time.  Instead I just gushed about how brilliant his Caribbean style bhut jolokia sauce is, told him about how every time I visit Holt in Norfolk I buy up every bottle Budgens has on sale, then shuffled off a little red in the face, apologising for being a bit 'stalkerish'.

I did get a chance to try a new sauce the man himself had on sale, and no doubt I'll blog about that at some point in the near future.  I did manage to snap a cheesy photo though!

Check out Norfolk Heatwave at

Poor fella must have been thinking 'who is this freak?'

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I went to Raja Stores in Ipswich and I bought...

On of my favourites sources (sic) for chilli sauces is Raja Stores in Ipswich.  Here's my little haul from today's visit:

Lets go at this left to right:

  • Sriracha, I've got plenty, so this is for my brother-in-law.
  • I never know what brand of coconut milk to buy, so I buy a variety!  This is for a lovely Brazilian chicken recipe I've been making recently.
  • I'm SO pleased to find this brand of pickled Jalapenos at Raja Stores, it's one of my favourites, and a store cupboard essential.
  • This paste is called 'Mr Naga', which was reason enough to buy it.  I'm hoping it's not as brutal as the other Naga product I bought at Raja, which nearly did me in.
  • I LOVE Aunt May's Bajan pepper sauce, I can't really describe it really well, but it's great on a rice stir-fry.
  • Minced ginger - I only picked this up because I'm fed up of scraping my knuckles when grating ginger.
  • I picked up some tortillas, although I was hoping to find some a LOT larger.  It's a constant bugbear of mine that in the UK it's impossible to buy anything other than silly little tiny tortillas, they're CRAP for making burritos!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Chilli Sauce - local boy done good!

This was supposed to be a post showing you my new improved 'shelf of pain', and while I'm still keen to show you how the recent subsidence repairs on my house have allowed me to install a larger shelf of pain, I'd rather tell you about the local chilli sauce company who have just one an award for one of their sauces. Right, first of all let's get this shelf pain photo out of the way.

Look at the sauces in the middle.  If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know how much of a fan I am of the chilli company who are just a mile down the road from me, the marvelous 'East Coast Chilli Company'.  I've long troubled anyone who would listen, going on and on about how great this Suffolk company are and how their sauces deserve a special place in everyone's heart...

Anyway, even although I knew I wasn't alone in my fandom of their wares they've now been officially recognised as hot sauce geniuses by the folk at 'Great Tastes'.  If you're reading this from outside the UK you might not be familiar with the 'Great Tastes'.  Well here in the UK if foodies (and other folk with good taste) see that little Great Taste logo on packaging it's a sign that the food within is GOOD!

So well done East Coast Chilli Company!

Go see what's so great about the the sauce that won the award...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Smoky Chipotle Chilli Sauce - The Cambridge Chilli Sauce Co. does it again!

Good chipotle sauces are not that easy to get right; they're either utterly pointless (like the Heinz 'effort') or a bit too dark in taste, and backed up by too much heat.

This Smoky Chipotle sauce from The Cambridge Chilli Co. hits the spot perfectly.  It's good and thick, has just enough pep and is subtle enough to be wonderfully versatile.  There are no freaky ingredients and red onions that are quite prevalent in the ingredients list don't over-mark their presence at all.

I do like the hilariously optimistic 'consume within two months' of opening stated on the label - if these bottles contained a couple of pints (instead of 150ml) this chilli sauce would still only last about a fortnight in this house!

I've only tried a few of the sauces on offer by The Cambridge Chilli Sauce Co. but if the rest are as good as this then I really hope I can find more of the range!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Smash & Grab at The Chilli Farm in Suffolk

I just had a meeting with a prospective client at the brilliant Chilli Farm in Suffolk and in addition to gaining a new client I also grabbed some smashing hot sauces and ephemera.

Left to right:

  • Cottage Delight - Naga Chilli Sauce
    This is a stock item / must have in our house.  Pizza, curries and a whole bunch of other meals are rendered pointless without a lashing of this brilliantly fruity naga sauce.
    Full review...
  • Pickled Jalapenos
    Hmm, maybe I put these in the wrong order, this is just another stock item that life without would be just too dull.
  • The Cambridge Chilli Company - Smoky Chipotle
    I had to consider this purchase for an embarrassingly long time while in the store, the reason being that the Chilli Farm themselves make a very good hot chipotle ketchup, so I wondered if I ought to buy local.  In the end I decided Cambridge was local enough.
  • La Preferida - Chipotle Peppers in spicy adobo sauce
    Bit of an impulse purchase this one, I'm a sucker for any chilli-related product I've never seen before.  Hopefully if the sauce isn't too potent I can sneak this into a chilli con-carne.
  • Professor Phardpounder's Colon Cleaner
    Well it was a toss-up between this and another humorously bum-titled hot sauce, in the end this one won out, partially because this is a hot sauce that leans heavily on mustard in the ingredients, so could be a good candidate to replace my Rectum Ripper once that runs out (no heinous bum-pun intended). 
  • Koren rice crackers
    Because I can't just drink these chilli sauces, what kind of sicko do you think I am??

Just a tiny selection of the chilli sauces on offer at the Chilli Farm.

Monday, 28 July 2014

East Coast Diner - INTERVIEW

A few weeks back I gave a bit of a rave review to an astonishingly good burger I had from The East Coast Diner in Woodbridge (Suffolk).  Well one thing led to another and after getting in touch with brains behind the operation I secured an interview in an attempt to find out the what, why and who behind what is one of the most promising restaurants for hot food fans in the whole of Suffolk, possibly East Anglia!

Hello!  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your lovely diner.

First up can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration to start the business?  What made you choose Woodbridge?

My partner is originally from Woodbridge which is why we're here. We were both living & working in London when we decided a career change was in order. We had never owned a restaurant before & thought Woodbridge would be a good place to learn the trade. We have had several restaurant concepts before the East Coast Diner.

The ECD basically came about from our love of the single minded trend of new restaurants like Burger & Lobster, Bubble dogs, Dirty Burger, Shake shack & 5 Guys, where they keep the menu fairly small so all the emphasis is on quality & doing a simple dish exceptionally well.

We also wanted somewhere that was family focused during the day & naturally turned into a more grown-up vibe in the evenings.

Plus a Diner should have an element of fun from the decor, the staff & the dishes whilst appealing to a wide range of people. What's not to like? We went over to Brooklyn to research what was new, vibrant & exciting and took elements of what we saw there back to Woodbridge. As you've seen, we are definitely not a caricature of a 1950s diner. We try & maintain an element of cool right down to the music we play (though sometimes the staff sneak some guilty pleasures in there).

Well that's a great answer, and you've given us a nice list of other new restaurants to investigate!  Guilty pleasures with the music hey?  We'll have to keep our ears peeled next time we visit.

One of the aspects of the East Coast Diner that really interested us was your link-ups with local food producers.  Who are you currently working with and how did these collaborations come about?  Was it always your intention to make the most of local talent, or did these relationships develop organically?  What are the biggest positives keeping things local have brought you?

The selection criteria for our suppliers requires their product to be of the highest standard (preferably award winning) as well as meeting the highest levels of service. We do not necessarily require our suppliers to be local, however we are blessed with many superb food & drink producers in the county of Suffolk. We currently work with the following:

-Sutton Hoo Chickens. Free range, organic & multi award winning chickens, grown within 2 miles of our front door. Dishes include marinated BBQ chicken wings & drumsticks, Cajun chicken burger, Crispy fried chicken & bacon burger, whole rotisserie chicken and many more.

-The Cake Shop, Woodbridge. Recently awarded 'Britain's best bakery' & featured on ITV's recent bakery series. 3rd generation baker David Wright has formulated unique 'semi brioche' burger buns & hotdog rolls for us.

-Black Dog Chilli company. Makers of Howlin' Hot chilli jam relish for our burgers & dogs as well as Howlin' Hot syrup for our cocktails.

-Hellhound brewery. Fantastic, local craft beer. We currently stock their Thunderstruck wheat beer.

-Adnams distillery. Multi award winning spirits from Southwold including 'World's best Gin' 2013. Head distiller John McCarthy has inspired us to create a special list of cocktails using these amazing spirits.

Working with local suppliers has added so much value to our brand. We love the creative, collaborative working process that always results in an improved product.

HUGE thanks to both Julie Officer & Lex Quinn for taking the time to talk to us. If you're in Woodbridge I heartily recommend you visit the East Coast Diner.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tabasco cheese snacks remind me of childhood illnesses.

I snuck these Tabasco snacks into the trolley when I spotted them on a recent trip to Waitrose. I had assumed they would be sort of cheesy biscuits with a hint of Tabasco. I was wrong, after I'd battled the packaging for an embarrassingly long period of time these odd little things are in fact cheese portions. Not very interesting cheese either.

The cheese is kinda soft and slightly chewy like it has been left in the sun, even although I ate it right out of the fridge. At first I couldn't get any hint of heat from the Tabasco, but just as I was about to abandon the snack entirely (and was about to give the rest to my daughter, who is less picky than I am) when the burn caught up with me.  I say 'caught up', but in reality the heat bypassed my tongue entirety and went straight to my tonsils. I have had a chilli hit this unrewarding since the first time I tried to make chilli sauce. The only sensation I can liken it to is that irritable throaty feeling one gets after a night of vomiting. 

I know taste is subjective, but I just can't figure out what the wizrads at Tabasco were aiming for when then conjured up these pepper cheese snacks. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

The top five - Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo

Another great report from Buzz (our Englishman abroad).  Click 'ere to read his first report from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo...


Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo


As promised, here’s my run-down of my five favourite hot sauce stands at the Expo. That’s not to say the other forty or so folk doing their thing don’t merit mention: so many good people, good ideas, and ultimately, good sauces. But too many to list. So thanks to everyone doing their bit to keep it spicy!

And without further ado, the Top Five:

1. Puckerbutt: My first stop on the proverbial Hot Sauce Expo train. The company lays claim to creating the Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper, 2013’s hottest chili. Wonderful South Carolina folk who knew their stuff and were keen to recommend a sauce for any taste or occasion. I plumped for a bottle of their Purgatory sauce, a searing hot number (though definitely not their hottest) with a deep, smoky, flavour and a heat that takes over the mouth and lingers, in a way that borders on the unpleasant but manages to remain satisfying.

2. Torchbearer: Wow. A veritable plethora of sauces. The sauce samples on their stand were lined up in heat order: from the very mildest upwards. Each one packed with flavour. The sky was indeed the limit for these guys, too. Every single one was delicious in its own way, from the self explanatory Oh My Garlic! to the outrageous The Rapture, which claims to be the hottest natural sauce in the world. I have no problem believing that. My choice, the Zombie Apocalypse, was a step down from this: full of Bhut Jolokia peppers and insanely hot, but irresistibly tasty. The fact they only sold this in bottles half the size of regular ones tells you all you need to know.

3. Whitehouse Station: This might just be the pick of the bunch for me. Straight-up, simple habanero hot sauce. Sweet, tangy, with all that delicious habanero flavour. It’s hot, but not intimidating, or even overbearing. It leaves a lovely tingle on the palate without ever taking over. All about the flavour: none of that “my sauce is hotter than yours” willy-waving (which, on balance, has its place, but isn’t the be-all-and-end-all). What I really like about these guys is that they don’t mess around: they make just the one product and they’ve really worked on making this as good as it could be. I could tell by talking to the owner that this sauce was a true labour of love. I suppose if you’re going to live or die on the power of a single product then it needs to be! Top marks.

4. High River Sauces: Now this was interesting. The owner had melded a career in the music industry with a passion for the culinary arts, publishing a recipe anthology entitled “Mosh Potatoes”, charting favourite recipes from the biggest bands in hard rock and heavy metal. He was showcasing a hot sauce, called the Grapes of Wrath, created by some bloke from a band called Trans-Siberian Orchestra who, shamefully, I had never heard of. The sauce was good though. As were the rest. My take-home was a bottle of Foo Foo Mama Choo, another Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper-heavy recipe. Not nearly as hot as the Purgatory, although it still has a serious kick; the burn creeps up and takes over the mouth in much the same way. What really sets this sauce apart from the rest is the fresh ginger, which gives it a delicious, clean, fresh flavour that adds real zip up front but goes as deep as the heat.

5. Defcon: Strictly speaking, not a hot sauce, but the chap behind these delightful wing sauces and horseradishes certainly takes his spicy seriously. Dressed as what I might describe as some kind of post-Mad Max dystopian cyber villain (replete with those weird contact lenses that make your eyes all white except for the black dot in the middle), he gave us the lowdown on his selection in his own inimitable way. The Habby Horse horseradish was satisfyingly sinus scorching as well as having that inimitable habanero kick; the Defcon #1 Buffalo wing sauce kicked the crap out of anything I’ve ever had in the bars of New York. And as a man with a nigh-on crippling addiction to Buffalo wings, that’s high praise indeed. It had a depth of flavour that went way beyond the usual synthetic and salty Frank’s Red Hot sauce that you’ll find most wings doused in (I realise this might be lost on many of you unfamiliar with the US. If you ever make it to NY, I’d be more than happy to show you the Way of the Wing). That unmistakable tangy flavour has its place, and isn’t altogether unpleasant, but I wouldn't be upset if Defcon’s blends became just as ubiquitous as Frank’s. Far from it.

Link to these vendors, and more:

My hot sauce haul!

Ian "Buzz" Burrows

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Chilango 100% Habanero Chillis Chilli Sauce

Chilango have won awards for making the best burritos in London, and you know what?  They deserve them.  In other posts on this blog I've ranted about English restaurants making American and Mexican food as if someone had described the dish to the chef over the phone at three in the morning (when the chef didn't have a notepad to hand).

The absolute worst burrito I ever had in the UK was one served to me in an expensive Mexican restaurant in Bath; apart from the fact it was smaller than a Sparrow's sock it was served in the middle of a puddle of gravy.  Oh my.  I assume two pages of their recipe book had got stuck together, resulting in a heinous burrito / shepherd's pie abomination.

Chilango Burritos - worth the hype?

Well I could make this a really short review and simply say YES, but then that wouldn't be very entertaining would it?  The burritos are the size of a child's head, full of fantastic fresh and tasty ingredients are warm, zingy and just about the most perfect burritos ever.  The staff are all gently friendly and very cheerfully guide each customer though the process of building their own burrito (sort of like Subway... but good).  They're not the cheapest, but if you've wondering why you've never had a burrito that's so good it verges on being a religious experience maybe that's because you've been pre-judging restaurants on price alone?  If you don't want to spend money on food then stick to sandwiches from petrol stations and accept that you're living your culinary life in black and white.

Chilango 100% Habanero Chillis Chilli Sauce

One of my favourite things about Chilango is their own-brand hot sauces; there's a 'standard heat' chilli sauce that hits quite raw high-notes but is quite reasonable with it, but the sauce that we really adore is their 100% Habanero sauce.  Made in Mexico by demigods (we assume) this Red Habanero has the slightly thick viscosity of a Sriracha, but is much less over-powering and (dare we say it) artificial tasting.  The burn sits deliciously in the middle of your tongue and rolls along for a perfect length of time without out-staying it's welcome.

As far as I can tell this remarkable sauce can only be bought in branches of Chilango, so if you take our tip and pop in to try one of the best burritos you'll ever eat then it's worth shelling out a fiver for your own bottle.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The highlights - Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo

Another great report from Buzz (our Englishman abroad).  Click 'ere to read his first report from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo...


Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo


I’ve been agonising over how to sum up a day of tasting easily over a hundred different hot sauces, wing sauces, horseradishes, bloody Mary mixes and seasonings, and there’s no way I could list them all and recount vividly my reaction to each. So here’s what I decided to do: firstly, here follows a series of observations and highlights of the whole Hot Sauce Expo experience. And subsequently, a Top Five of what I consider to have been the most memorable, and most delicious, sauces. Essentially, these were the ones I felt compelled to take home with me!

Dear reader, I offer you these snippets and observations, by way of summary:

It is possible to build up a worrisome tolerance. The jalapeno-bacon-cheese chips (courtesy of Deano’s Jalapenos) that I bought tasted fairly innocuous when sampled at the Expo. I have since discovered that they have quite a kick! They nonetheless come very highly recommended, and act both as an interesting topping and a handy snack. Although, nothing prepares the human body for the onslaught of the spiciest of the spicy, as my post detailing my brush with the fine folk of Voodoo Chile will testify.

What I considered to be quite unfair was the complete lack of anything on hand to temper the chili heat – no milk, no yoghurt, no other such concoctions designed to calm the spicy beast. There were free cheese samples: spicy cheese. Spicy cheese? Heavens above. For better or for worse, there was always beer, provided by the outstanding Lagunitas Brewery.

People are stupid. But when this stupidity is harnessed for the entertainment of others, it can readily be overlooked. The participants in both the wing-eating and spicy pizza-eating contests of course deserve high praise for their commitment to the cause. By, my lord, what idiots. Braver/hardier/foolisher (delete as applicable) souls than I, for sure. But all’s fair in the name of entertainment, and entertained we were. In fairness though, I suppose the same applies to those who were willing to put themselves through a day of tasting hot sauces in the name of fun, ergo everyone who paid the $12 to get through the door…yours truly included.

Stupid people.

 It was a great day out, for aficionados such as myself and for the hot sauce novice such as my friend’s mother who, despite travelling 200 miles from New England, didn’t begrudge the fact that she was spending a rare trip to NYC in a room full of nutjob spice fiends, and even looked like she was enjoying herself! That said, it was pelting it down outside – she could have just been happy not to be soaked through. An impressive mix of people of all ages, from all walks of life, in one room, with at least one thing in common (I’m going to assume I don’t have to spell out what that one thing is). A special experience.

The following day, everything tasted weird. Not spicy, just strange. Even water had a bizarre flavour to it. My taste buds had been well and truly annihilated.

All in all, ridiculous. Fun. Entertaining. A learning experience. I certainly feel that I’ve been given plenty to think about, more than I thought possible. After all, it’s just a bunch of sauces made from peppers, right?! Great conversations about cultivating chilies, hot sauce recipe tips, different types of pepper and the nuances of their respective flavours, the merits of sampling tinctures not recommended for human consumption, how starting a hot sauce company wasn’t an obvious career choice, obligatory questions about my out-of-place accent and many more besides. All being well I’ll be there again next year. It might take that long to truly recover.

Ian "Buzz" Burrows

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Chilli Drops - BollyGood

The fact that the bottle is half-empty after two doses should give you an idea of how we feel about this hot sauce straight off the bat.  A quick quint at the label tells the tale of a sauce trying to be a bit like a cheerful evening at your local curry house.  We approve, we've had a go at making a sauce like this ourselves (see our 'Profanity Hot Sauce' recipe) but found that echoing the spices that one might put in a home-cooked curry a bit too overpowering.  Overall we like sauces to compliment food, not dominate it.

The coriander, garlic and turmeric in this 'BollyGood' sauce would be core ingredients in something like jalfrezi, but the lack of cumin dials back the crazy to a level that hits the notes that curry-influenced sauces so often miss.

The initial taste is very recognisable as the pleasant lingering trace-tastes you get maybe half an hour after finishing a really nicely done curry(ish) dish.  The heat is there, but quite gently, this is a sauce that is all about the taste.  Some of the heat comes from added mustard, but it has been added in low enough amounts (we're guessing) so as not to overly influence the taste.  To taste the polar-opposite of the BollyGood mild-mustard hit you might like to try something like the 'Rectum Ripper' sauce we featured a few weeks ago.

As with a lot of our sauce tests we first tried the Chilli Drops 'BollyGood' sauce on a decent cheddar and Carrs plain crackers, and like with all the sauces we try (and love) we were keen to try it on something a little more demanding.  Last night we slathered a veg and rice stir-fry in BollyGood and it worked really well, we would have also added some of the Chilli Drops 'Smoky Naga' but we've nearly run out of that just a few days after cracking it open!

Back when we started 'Hot Sauce UK' we were of the opinion that at least 75% of the hot sauce available in the UK was tomato-based, it's chuffin' brilliant to review sauces like BollyWood that prove that tomatoes are not the only fruit that matters when it comes to making delicious sauces.

Get it direct -

P.S The label says 'shake me drop me do me!' - no idea what that's all about.

VOODOO CHILE - Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo

We started this food blog to focus on the hot sauces available here in the UK, so it might surprise you to see some reports from across the pond.  Our mate Buzz is living in New York and offered to send over a few reviews for the hot sauce-related experiences he's having while living in the USA.  So Buzz's guest posts are written from outside the UK they are very much an Englishman's perspective.  We are HUGELY grateful to Buzz for taking the time to write these posts, please follow him on Twitter, you won't be disappointed!  Photos on this page were taken by Buzz; he's a bit of all-rounder!


Notes from the 2nd annual
New York Hot Sauce Expo


“It’ll last around ten to twelve minutes”, he said as he produced an unmarked vial from a leather pouch on his belt and proceeded to measure a mere teardrop of sauce on to my outreached plastic spoon. I had already experienced the hellfire of CaJohn’s Black Mamba, the tear-inducing agony of Tom’s Roid Rippin’ Crimson Reaper and the sheer searing scourge of Volcanic Peppers’ Olympus Mons, all of which were well into the millions on the Scoville range. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already spent all day subjecting myself to these and many more intensely hot, though intensely delicious, concoctions. I thought I was ready. But Voodoo Chile’s offering was a different beast altogether. Having sampled a few of their tamer offerings, including the positively delectable Porcus Infernum (bacon-infused hot sauce? Yes please!), it was time to get down to business. I had made it my mission to sample the hottest hot sauces known to mankind. This sort of opportunity didn’t readily present itself all that often.

The man behind the stand couldn’t put a finger on exactly how hot his latest tincture was – somewhere in the 9-12 million Scoville ballpark was his educated guess. He also mentioned that the stuff was not, and probably would never be, available for purchase. He certainly wasn’t doing anything to encourage me that taking a sample was a good idea. Quite the opposite, in fact. That should have served as a more than adequate warning. But no. I insisted: I wanted to go to the “next level”.

Black Mamba. 6 million of your finest SHUs...

As I unleashed the sauce upon my taste buds, I felt that unmistakable tingle on my tongue – though without any of the flavours or nuances that, as any discerning hot head would agree, make the whole experience worthwhile. The kind man was talking me through the various stages I’d encounter on my “trip”: two to three minutes of gradually building heat working its way to the back of the throat, followed by a couple of minutes of sustained heat. After which, the spice would spend the next few minutes coming and going in waves, eventually tailing off…as he was describing this experience to me I could feel nothing but pain; my nose and eyes were streaming, my throat throbbing and tightening up to such an extent I was gasping for air. There was a point at which I genuinely thought it was never going to end.

In the midst of all this, and hitherto unbeknownst to me, a small crowd had started to gather to witness what can only be described as total hot sauce meltdown, seemingly taking pleasure in my misadventure. At this point, I hastily took off for the nearest bathroom, hoping to expel the build-up of nasty stuff in my nose and to put my head under the tap for a good few minutes. Alas, no. A queue for the gents. A QUEUE! The well-drilled Brit that I am, I stood patiently in line, desperately trying my best to act as if everything was quite alright, whilst reassuring myself that this is probably one of the few occasions where it is acceptable for grown men to be seen crying in public, and noting that I had reached “the waves” stage: relative relief as the spicy surge abated, only for it to come back stronger each time. My body was shaking. My temperature going hot and cold, sweat rushing down my face, in unison with the snot and tears. A certain numbness had come over me, although I was still in pure agony. The end had to be near – to the queue and to the suffering. And sure enough, it was over just as quickly as it had started. By the time I had made it to the front of the line, my desperation had suddenly subsided, the onslaught was over and the fire in my throat was slowly but surely fading to glowing embers. It seemed to last a lifetime, but a glance at my watch confirmed that around ten minutes had elapsed; my ordeal was over. On to the next one.

Links to these purveyors of fine hot sauces and other such spicy products:

Ian "Buzz" Burrows

Want more?  Read Buzz's second report from the New York Hot Sauce Expo...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Chilli Drops - Smoky Naga

The biggest challenge presented to a sauce being tested here at Hot Sauce UK headquarters is the 'substrate' used to accompany it.  The test taste for the 'Smoky Naga' by Chilli Drops of London Town was carried out using a £3 pizza from Sainsbury's.  I horribly over-cooked the pizza and the toppings were clearly applied by a chimp with one eye on the clock.  These pizzas were born to disappoint, and consistently achieve their mission.  Harsh conditions indeed.

There is a reason to my method though, I've previously talked about how the Cottage Delight Naga Chilli Sauce can rescue a crap pizza, so this is a sort of comparison.

On first tasting the overwhelming impression is of the smokiness (provided by lovely liquid smoke), there wasn't much of a burn, and if the taste scope range had stopped at that point I would have been quite disappointed.  What's the point in buying boutique hot sauces if they're no point interesting or exciting than the crap that Heinz shunts out to people with polystyrene tastebuds, trained on the banality of microwave suppers and food designed to 'play it safe' rather entertain and excite.  But the taste didn't stop at smoky.  Oh no.

A very warming heat started coming through, fuelled by an impressive variety of peppers contained within.  This is a reassuring cuddle in a bottle.  Both the consistency and taste of the Chilli Drops 'Smoky Naga' is very satisfyingly thick.  I love hot sauces that I can slather over food (without ruining it).  Hell, I could probably drink this sauce straight out of the bottle.

There's a rewarding complexity in the after-taste of this sauce, something that many sauce 'auteurs' don't attain.  Good sauce keeps on giving, preferably for a while after you've finished eating.

I tip my hat to Chilli Drops, this the first of their sauces I've tried, and it's incredibly likely to become an essential component of my shelf of pain.  I'm really looking forward to trying the rest of the range now.

Get it direct -

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Baktat Jalapeños

It's curious that I manage to find so much variance between different types of pickled jalapenos that I can actually write plenty of reviews about a pepper that is in the bigger scheme of things quite mundane...

These jalapenos came from our local Turkish shop, which is strangely enough is mostly stocked with goods from from Eastern Europe.  I've seen Baktat Jalapenos in quite a lot of places and I can see why; they're a very nice brand of peppers.

Unfortunately Jar is quite small, the reason this is a problem is that the chunks and slices of Jalapeno are quite generously cat. A large and crunchy pepper is just what I'm after. Lovely.

There are not as many seeds as are sometimes found in other jars of pickled jalapeno.  This is a mixed blessing; I like the heat from the seeds but they can be little acerbic to some tastes.

On the whole this is a hearty and reliable pickled jalapeno, you can't go wrong, they're still better than any other crappy efforts you'll find in major supermarkets. The many Eastern European cornershops that have opened up in recent years are an absolute goldmine for fan of hot sauce.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Holkum Hot Sauce - with Norwich mustard!

Hot sauce isn't a topic that often leaves my consciousness, and even although I'm technically on holiday this week my hot sauce radar never takes time off.  A couple of days ago while doing the obligatory gift shop part of a trip to the lovely Holkum Hall Estate in Norfolk I spotted some interesting looking hot sauces, accompanied by the info-card you see at the top of this post.

The Holkum range of sauces were developed and made in conjunction with Norfolk Heatwave (based in nearby Holt), and are partially made using ingredients grown on the Holkum Estate.

I bypassed the Jalapeño sauce as I whenever I've bought a predominantly Jalo based sauce in the past I never seem to find the right dish to use it with - while I adore eating the actual peppers (raw or pickled) when 'sauced' they add a certain taste that I struggle to find complimentary to anything other than salsa.  But enough about what I didn't buy, what did I buy?

Holkum Mango and Scotch Bonnet Sweet Chilli Sauce

My first impression on trying this sauce was that it's remarkably similar to one of my all-time favourite sauces, the mouthwateringly tangy 'Certain Death'.  Then the penny dropped!  The reason this Holkum Mango and Scotch Bonnet tasted so familiar is that it's made the same folk who make Certain Death!  Further inspection reveals a very similar list of ingredients for these two sauces.

At first I was a little disappointed to find out that Norfolk Heatwave apparently were playing it safe by re-using an already established recipe, but on trying both sauces next to each other (yes, I actually travel with a bottle of Certain Death!) I was relieved to find out my assumption was baseless.
The Holkum Mango sauces isn't bolstered by Jalokia chillies like Certain Death, neither does it contain the ginger that gives Certain Death it's unique deep punch.  If was being uncharitable I'd say that the Holkum Mango and Scotch Bonnet Sweet Chilli Sauce is 'Certain Death Lite', but if was being realistic I'd say this is a sauce that stands up perfectly well on its own.

It's a cheeky little number, and the only real minor negative point I'd mention is how thin this sauce is.

Holkum Hot Pepper Sauce

I fetched this bottle because I accidentally left my usual 'general purposes' hot sauces at home and wanted the type of sauce that gives tomato-based dishes an extra bit of pep without overpowering 'native' tastes in the dish.  When trialling new sauces I tend to use either cheese and cracker or baked beans as a kind of substrate to the taste, so last night I gave this Holkum Hot Pepper Sauce it's first proper taste on baked beans with jacket potato.

I gave the bottle a good shake and gently tipped some over my beans, and this is where I got a bit annoyed, about a quarter of the bottle sluiced out!  Arg!  I've had to put entire meals in the bin when I've accidentally over-sauced them a few times in the past, and this meal was happening at the end of a very busy day -  I needed this dinner!  Unless I'm putting a hot sauce in as an ingredient in food I do not want it thin!  The application of hot sauce is an art, we choose exactly where we want the sauce and usually expect it to stay where told until consumed.  Having a bottle try and empty itself like a spilled pint does not get us off on the right mood.  Fortunately this Holkum Hot Pepper is bang on the money in terms of giving dishes an inoffensive pep, so the meal was not lost!

This is a good store cupboard sauce, and certainly has a unique twang that I can't quite put my finger on, but it doesn't throughly thrill me, partially because it's just too thin for my tastes.

Holkum Hot Sauces - Conclusion

Good stuff on the whole, if it was a little thicker!  Half the joy of small-scale hot sauce production is that it isn't homegenised, and it does have tons of personality (sometimes from bottle to bottle), so maybe these sauces were just made on a day when things came up thin.  That being said I LOVE what Holkum and Norfolk Heatwave are doing with these sauces, and applaud them loudly.  We need more crossovers like this in the world of hot sauce.

Oh, and both of these sauces have 'Norwich Mustard' in them, which we assume is Colemans!  There are plenty of posts on this blog littered with me saying that I don't tend to like sauces that use mustard to boost the blast factor, but I think I might have to change my mind!

P.S here's the side-by-side ingredients comparison between Certain death (right) and Holkum Mango and Scotch Bonnet Sweet Chilli Sauce (left):

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Royale Howlin' Hot Burger - East Coast Diner

The East Coast Diner in Woodbridge appears to be almost universally loved by everyone in Suffolk, at least that's the way it appears to be if you look at the number of 'likes' they have on Facebook, but in the bigger scheme of things (I.E. in the non-virtual world) 'likes' equate to very little that is tangible.  Or do they?  One sunny Saturday we ambled into the middle of Woodbridge to sample the East Coast Diner for ourselves.

Getting the American Diner vibe was always going to be a challenge in a timber-framed building in the middle of an ancient market town in Suffolk, and theming any food outlet is a tricky challenge; either you're so camp you're charming, or you're so camp it's bewildering and over-powering.  I really like the way East Coast Diner have developed their brand - they've brought a slice of America to this little town by serving food in baskets lined with East Coast Diner branded paper and by having the closest thing I've seen to an actual American attitude to burgers, hot dogs and pizzas that I've witnessed this far east of Boston (and I don't mean Boston in Lincolnshire).

The keenest focus on getting the vibe right certainly appears to have been invested in the food, and with a hefty payoff.  Us Brits of a certain age grew up in the 70s and 80s believing the Wimpy was a genuine representation of American cuisine, whereas it's as close to American Cuisine as Instant Coffee is to real coffee.  They may share similar (attempted) flavours but wouldn't be recognisable as sharing any common ground in a blind taste test.  So glancing at the East Coast Diner menu and seeing genuinely American-influenced cuisine was a real treat.  This isn't American inspired food, it's not mass-franchised and blandacised McDoNots or Burger Thing. this is near-as-dammit actual American food (locally sourced!).

The Royale Howlin' Hot Burger

So I've rambled on about the general look and feel of the East Coast Diner, it's about time I told you about the food.  As this was my first visit I can only vouch for one dish, and as this is a hot sauce blog I did the proper thing and ordered a meal that claimed to be hot with a capital 'H', well it was all written in capitals but you get the idea.

The food arrived pretty quickly and the side-order of Cajun-spiced fries were a nice warmup lap before getting my chops into the main event.  There was an incredibly generous pile of pickled jalapeño slices surrounding the burger that were nicely crisp, and neither swamped in vinegar or soft and stodgy like jalapeño slices so often are.  They tasted great.

I have a real issue with how beefburgers are presented in gastro-pubs in England - they seem to think we desire to see a burger and bun combo so thick that we'd have to dislocate our jaws to eat it.  If I want a big burger I want a burger with a decent circumference, not something that I need the jaw mechanism of a large snake to successfully make the transfer from plate to belly.  The Royale Howlin' Hot burger (and indeed every other burger I saw being consumed) was entirely the correct size for a burger, ignoring entirely the fad for height over flavour, and this went some way to endearing me to the dish before I'd even taken a bite.

The bread was perfect burger bun bread, not too fluffy and insubstantial like some mainstream chains, but also not dense and challenging like it is in pretentious restaurants.  The bun did it's job, it held the burger in check while I went to work on it with my pie-hole.  The garnishes inside the bun were both above and below the meat patty, something else I commend entirely.  Why on earth do most burger-sellers put the patty at the bottom of the stack then pile on huge amounts of salad that you have to fight your way through before hitting meat; using your teeth in much the same way as an adventurer would clear jungle undergrowth with a machete.  This burger went crunch, meat, crunch.  Perfect.  Gastro pubs take note - we want a pleasing eating experience, not a shrubbery on a 8cm thick slab of mystery-beef, encased in 'rustic' bread so tough the meal should be served with a hacksaw in leu of cutlery.

The only negative I can think of mentioning in this entire review is that the large slice of tomato in my burger was a touch too juicy, so bled a little through the bottom of my bap.  But it's a very minor negative, a bit like someone giving you a Ferrari for free only for you to complain about the lack of an AA road map in the glove compartment.

Hot conclusion?

As a fan of hot food I'm horribly sceptical about choosing anything of a public menu that claims to be 'hot'.  It never is hot.  Ever.  Allegedly 'hot and spicy food' in restaurants caters for folk who consider Worcester Sauce a bit 'peppy'.  This Royale Howlin' Hot burger had enough zing to satisfy any hot sauce fan; the heat was sweet and subtle, building to quite a pleasingly gentle burn.  Your teeth won't melt, but you will know you've eaten something with real spice.  The pep in this patty came from Black Dog Chilli Jam, a chilli jam I'm keen to try again.

A large chunk of this review has ended up being a complaint from yours truly to the entire restaurant industry in the UK, but I've left in my complaints in the hope that anyone out there in the trade reads this review, visits the East Coast Diner and learns how burgers should be made.

More -

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Rectum Ripper XXX 1/2 - review

Rectum Ripper XXX1/2 was on my Amazon wishlist for years as a joke item.  It was basically there so that if my mum looked at my wishlist prior to a birthday or Christmas she'd see the name of this hot sauce gasp in a similar camp sort of way she does if someone were to be mildly profane on screen during The Antiques Roadshow on BBC1.

I didn't factor in my little sister, who partly shows her affection for her older brother by buying him hot sauces that might rupture his guts.  So one Christmas I opened a bottle-shaped gift and found the bottle of Rectum Ripper XXX1/2 lurking malevolently within.

As is tradition I had to try some of this sauce right there on the spot, if half the joy of giving a gift then for my sister the other half is seeing her sibling spinning around on the floor, propelled by fumes and / flame exiting bodily orifices.  On first tasting I dismissed Rectum Ripper as a novelty item, totally inedible.  The hit wasn't of chilli type heat, it was more a World War 1 trenches attack affair.

But then I kept on eating it...

I almost exclusively have this hot sauce on cheese and biscuits and I now love it precisely because it offers something different to every other sauce on my 'shelf of pain'.  The mustard is the most immediate hit, but the ginger rolls along quite soon after.  It sure is damned hot, but like any hot sauce getting the dose right reduces the chances of losing tooth-enamel and leaves quite a blissful after-taste.  And the dose with this sauce is small, very small.  I think I've had this bottle about three or four years and it's only just under half empty now; this could last me for years, in fact I hope it does.

Usually the use of mustard in hot sauces is something I frown upon, especially when (like with pepper concentrate) it is used to ramp up the pain just for the sake of it.

There are a couple of endearing oddities on the Rectum Ripper XXX1/2 bottle label:

  • The label claims that 'it's not blood' dripping from the sickle on the front of the bottle, but the drip in question is brown, so what is it?  Poo?
  • The labels lists the county of Worcestershire as one of the ingredients

WANTED - Taco Bell Fire hot sauce in the UK

Taco Bell doesn't exist here in the UK, and on the whole I'm not too bother by the lack of 'TB' in the UK.  Taco Bell is a huge American franchise that is to Mexican food what Pizza Hut is to Italian food. It's a sort of a safely unchallenging approximation of the kind of grub you would see in a real Mexican restaurant, and probably bears no relation to the food you would find in Mexico. 

My god Taco Bell is cheap though; many years ago I was planning to tour the Eastern seaboard of the States with my band.  When I raised our lack of funding with the singer of the American band we were touring with he laughed and assured me that it would be possible to feed both bands for under $20 at Taco Bell. It was only a very minor exaggeration. The tour never happened, but my interest in Taco Bell had been seeded. 

A few years later I was in the States (writing a travel book) and tried Taco Bell for the first time, and while the food was perfectly tasty what really impressed me was their hot sauces. Wow. 

The hottest sauce was 'Taco Bell Fire Sauce'; it wasn't annihilatingly hot but dear lord it was tasty. If you've never visited America you might not full appreciate just ramped up some of the food flavour is. A lot of the time this hyper-flavour principle is wretched, but with Taco Bell hot sauces the theory is spot on. 

I wish I could wax lyrical and tell you exactly what Fire sauce tastes like but the tragic truth is that I've forgotten. Each time I've been to the States I've filled my pockets with Fire sauce to smuggle home, but all supplies ran out years ago. 

All good blog posts should end with a conclusion, mine is simple -I want Taco Bell fire sauce!!!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Chula hot sauce

Chula may be not how you know this hot sauce brand, and that's because of course the correct spelling is in fact c h o l u l a.  As with a lot of things in my life I somehow accidentally start calling them by a slightly incorrect name, and eventually my friends and family come on-side and start to realise what I'm talking about.

Chula hot sauce - quick review.

Before I discovered Sriracha (on a trip to the States) Chula was my 'go to' sauce for any food that I considered to be needing an extra bit of flavour. Sriracha has quite a potent garlic kick, whereas Chula is a lot kinder on the palette, and gentler on ones breath.  It's a good, cheap, every easily available hot sauce that can nicely improve most tomato-based dishes without getting all gobby and over-powering about it.  Keep your eyes peeled for the ubiquitous wooden bottle lid that helps Chula hot sauce stand out on the shelf, it's a nice addition to any hot sauce collection.

Incidentally the Cholula Chipotle sauce is particularly great, although I haven't been able to find any in the shops for a long time.

P.S Unless I'm mistaken, and I often am, 'Chula' is the feminine word for 'beautiful' in Spanish.

P.P.S The real reason I've called Cholula Hot Sauce 'Chula Hot Sauce' is that statistics show that a LOT more people call this sauce by the incorrect name!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Melis pickled jalapeños peppers - reviewed.

You may wonder why in additional to rabbiting on about hot sauce I'm now talking about pickled jalapeños.  Why on earth does that puzzle you?  It's all part of the same glorious tongue-tingling world as hot sauce.

I also wanted to write a pickled pepper review because quite frankly there are some terrible pickled jalapeños on the market (I'll name names in another post), so it makes sense to give props to those companies getting it right.

I pickled up these Melis pickled jalapeños at Morrisons, but they are also available at ASDA and tons of non-megamart retailers.

The peppers have a good crunch to them and a nice fresh, clean taste.  To be honest I can't think of much more to say other than they're perfectly serviceable, not the best I've had but far nicer than the mush that some brands serve up on an indifferent public.  I actually think the jalapeños that Subway use are probably the best I've had, I wonder where they get them from?

On the downside a lot of the peppers in this jar are shredded scraps rather than nice big chunky slices.  It may just be the jar I have though; maybe it was made on a Friday afternoon just before quittin' time.

For this review I'd like to be able to say I tried the Melis pickled jalapeños peppers in a variety of dishes, but to be honest I just shoved my fingers in the top of the jar and moved them swiftly into my pie-hole.  If you're trying new pickled peppers always try them on their own first, if you add mushy horrid pickles to any dish you'll ruin it.

If you're still reading this far I might as well give you a nice little recipe hint.  I'm heading out for a picnic with my daughter today so I've made a bagel with cream-chese, ham, pickled jalapeños peppers, a few splats of chipotle sauce and a spray of liquid smoke.  Hmmmmmm.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Naga sauce that can rescue friendships.

At the risk of this blog looking like it's sponsored by Cottage Delight I'm going to write about yet another one of their sauces.  For a company that appears to make a bewildering array of disparate foodstuffs they get some of their hot sauces SO right.

This Naga Chilli Sauce is so deliciously light it adds a fresh almost salsa-like zing to foods.  I use this to pep up a particularly delicious Butternut Squash curry that my wife makes, but it's just as at home giving taste to a particularly desperate, potentially unsalvageable dish.

So how good is this sauce?  I'll tell you: A couple of years ago I went to a music festival called 'All Tomorrow's Parties' and I shared a chalet with three friends.  The deal was that we would each meet at the festival each bearing a home-cooked meal, to save us from the horrors of trying to sustain ones human need for sustenance while staying in a Pontins' chalet.  I arrived with a gorgeous Spaghetti Bolognese, lovingly crafted with meat from our local farm store, fresh veg from an organic box-scheme and Spanish chorizo so sweet you could eat it raw for breakfast.  In short this was a meal I was proud of.  A good meal.  Not a 'roughing it' meal.  My chalet-mates brought nothing.  The on-site Spar had run out of all but plain cheese pizzas by the first morning of the festival.  The oven in the chalet only had the ability to burn the top of these plain pizzas, while leaving the base frozen.  If it wasn't for this Cottage Delight Naga Chilli sauce and it's incredible ability to rescue almost any food that weekend would have played out quite differently.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Habanero and lime chicken cous cous

More often than not us hot sauce fans tend to assign sauces to meals rather than basing meals around a sauce, but that's not always the case.  Sometimes I try a sauce and immediately my mind starts trying to think up a recipe to make the most of said sauce.  Such a thing happened when I first tried the Habanero and Lime sauce made by East Coast Chilli Company, but until today no opportunity to put it into action had presented itself.

As I sat pondering lunch today a moment of inspiration took me, and I cobbled together a meal that should compliment the Habanero and Lime sauce perfect.  This is a leftovers meal, and here's what I diced and chucked in with some cous cous:
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Diced celery
  • Diced cucumber
  • Diced chorizo
  • Diced chicken
Now this should have been a sublime and light citrus-infused summery lovely lunch.  I say 'should have been' because in my haste I didn't read the label on the bottle I grabbed properly and accidentally put some 'Extra Hot Habanero and Naga Sauce' (also by East Coast Chilli Company) sauce into the mix.  So instead of a light easy-going lunch I've created something quite different... Still good though!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Tropical Sun - Caribbean hot pepper sauce

No idea what peppers are in this sauce, I guess 79p a bottle doesn't buy you much provenance on the label. 

I'm giving this Caribbean sauce a special mention because it's one if those rare sauces that nicely lifts any dish without imparting too much of its own character. This sauce is not bombastic, it's your friend rather than your attacker. 

This cheap little bottle is such a great taste tool that I carry a bottle in my guitar case for livening up pre-gig meals. 

Hot sauce & oil - the perfect leftovers lunch

For some reason members of my family appear to have an aversion to eating bread crusts, I have my suspicions about who it might be.  I reckon the culprits are the family members who have straight hair rather than curly hair like myself.

So half-stale crusts build up and need dealing with.  My solution is so fill a shallow dish with extra-virgin olive oil then drizzle in a bit of balsamic glaze and a few drops of hot sauce.  A sprinkling of freshly-ground pepper finishes off the dish nicely.

Then I hack up the crusts and dip till the dish is dry.  Lovely.  In retrospect I shouldn't have used Dave's Insanity Sauce for today's lunch.  I'm suffering a but now.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce - as a contraceptive.

Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce has been on 'must try' list since I was about 18 years old (some years ago) when I used to buy hot sauces from 'Hot Headz' mail-order service (pre-Internet!).  One of the reasons I hadn't bought this sauce before is that it's chuffin' expensive!  I recently received a modest royalty payment for one of my books so while at the Chilli Farm in Mendlesham (Suffolk) I decided to push the boat out and splash out on some Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce.

Last night I spotted the new bottle on my 'shelf of pain' (more on that later) and decided the time was right for a taste test-drive.  The meal used to test drive this sauce was Chilli con carne on jacket spud, which might seem like an odd choice but this is a Chilli cooked by yours truly taking into account the tastes of my wife and child, so it has almost no native heat.

I've learnt from previous hot sauce accidents to try just a few drops of anything new before generously sloshing it all over supper.  A drop or two of Dave's Insanity Sauce was quite divine, this sauce has quite a unique taste and is really quite moorish.  Because the test had gone well I added another drizzle to my food; not much mind you - this stuff is expensive!

Well the meal rolled on well enough but I was becoming increasingly aware that I appeared to be loosing a lot of water from my face.  I didn't quite reach total annihilation but I don't think I was far off.  This wasn't an intense or even unpleasant type of burn, it fact it was quite nicely rounded and only mildly incapacitating.  The sort of heat in your gob that you can nod and appreciate without any desire to intensify it.

About ten minutes after I had finished eating I had to resort to a glass of mild and a choc-ice to cool the flames, but they did subside and at no point was I in serious discomfort.  At least until this morning...

I feel like I've been dealt a blow to my lower stomach, I won't go into too much physiological detail but if this were a scene in a movie then I know which Jonny Cash song would be on the soundtrack.  The other unpleasant side-affect of this sauce is - and there's no polite way to say this - a feeling a bit like the one experienced around half an hour after crushing ones knackers, but this has been lasting for hours.

As I sit down to write this little review I've noticed that 'Dave' doesn't list which peppers go into this sauce but does declare 'hot pepper extract' in the list of ingredients.  Pepper extracts is something Tim over at East Coast Chilli Company once proudly told me he never uses, and if this is how they make your innards feel then I can see why.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Dissection of chilli heat anihillation

There are many videos on YouTube showing idiots eating hot sauces and chillies and suffering through the subsequent pain.  Don't watch those videos.  This hot sauce lark is serious sometimes, it can really damage you if you're not cautious.  So if have never been annihilated by a chilli watch this video by my friend George Juniper; he suffers so you don't have to.

George eats a Dorset Naga chilli then eloquently talks us through every aspect of the experience.  I wanted to show you this video because although you can see from George that despite the fact his body is clearly in distress he also talks about how good it makes him feel.  We don't eat hot sauces to be macho (both George and I are from a punk-background that has no interest in machismo), we eat these things because they're actually pleasant.  If you want to see the experience really kick in then skip to the 3 minute mark, but you'll be missing out on the interesting nerdy chilli-bit!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Pran Naga Pickle - the hot sauce that nearly killed me.

You may think that headline is a bit much, but it's possibly not too far from the truth...

I found this Naga pickle in a local 'International Food Store', we have loads of them in Ipswich and they're more prevalent that the long-dead corner shops ever where, and have a much better range of foods (especially hot sauces).  When I bought this jar of pickle the fella behind the counter picked it up and looked me squarely in the eye, in much the same manner as one might eye someone who tells you he plans to rob the crown jewels wearing nothing but the front-half of a pantomime horse costume.

"Er, have you had Naga before?"

I thought this was the sort of question that might result in the item being withdrawn from grubby wanton mitts.  I replied that indeed I have had Naga before.  This is true, I love Naga, although the Naga Vodka I made possibly contravenes the Geneva convention (more on that another time).

As with a lot of hot sauces I buy I gave this Naga Pickle a trial by cheese and cracker.  On first taste this Naga pickle didn't seem too harsh, just a very clean toppy (and slightly zesty) burn.  I smeared another incredibly thin amount on a generous chunk of cheese and popped into my pie hole whole.

It was around the fourth cracker that I started to develop suspicions that the burn from the first cracker was still building.  Then I got the 'creeping dread' - that feeling that rises slowly from the heart of your torso and spreads throughout every fibre of your being.  It's a feeling that things are bad now, but they're about to get a lot worse.  It's a runaway train of pain.  I fell out of a second story window when I was a teenager and I can remember thinking (as I fell through the air) that the few seconds before I met the ground might be the last I would ever experience without pain.  I was thinking back to the moment before that first cracker entered my smacker in the same way.

Then it really hit me.

Every part of the taste trauma to this point had been a tickle on the cods compared to the studded boot that was about to grind into my soul with the brute force of a petrol-engine powered genital discourtesy.

I've 'achieved' aural-annihilation this intense a few times before, well 'nearly' this intense.  This grew, and spread until it consumed me.  When us fellas get a thwack in the crackers it's a pain that grows tendril-like throughout your body until each tendril tightens and rips through nerves in your body that are normally left to slumber.  Machine gun bullets of agony force blacked bile into every cell of your corporeal crap-house.  The Pran Naga Pickle was worse.

It did not stop.
It would not stop.
If felt like the end would never come.
I wanted the end to come, if that's what it took for the pain to stop.

In the past when I've accidentally scarred my innards with hot sauce the abatement of the pain brought with it a sweet and tender release, a feeling so good and calming that it was almost worth the accidental overdose in order to revel in the sweet relief after the agony.

It did not stop.
It would not stop.
If felt like the end would never come.
I wanted the end to come, if that's what it took for the pain to stop.

I woke up several times throughout the night, alarmed and terrified into a waking nightmare when my tongue found a microscopic section of my mouth that I had failed to scrub clean, a microscopic section harbouring hell in pickle form.

A few weeks later an entire section of the side of one of my teeth fell out, I seriously think it may have been weakened by this Naga Pickle.

I spent the entirety of the following day either sitting on the crapper fighting back meaty tears or curled up cradling my stomach, which felt like it had been kicked by a horse.  I have never experienced discomfort like that brought upon me by Pran Naga Pickle, and I speak as someone who once fell out of a car doing 50mph and landed on my face.

All being said this jar is still in my cupboard and I quite fancy a quick spoonful...

P.S a little research has revealed that this Naga Pickle is on a banned foods list in Scotland on account of containing a potentially carcinogenic food colouring.  Lookie...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chilli Farm mild salsa review

During a recent stocking up trip to the Chilli Farm in Suffolk I was handed a free jar of salsa; on further inspection I was probably given the jar for free as it's very close to the declared sell-by date.  But hey, I'm all for free stuff and like to do my bit to reduce food-waste.

I 'tested' this salsa using some of my favourite Cottage Delight dipping crackers, which have a bit of pep themselves, so I suppose this isn't a clean fight (so to speak), but hey, I offer nothing if not subjective-testing with no 'control', so here goes.

This salsa is very zesty and is cheerfully lacking that vinegar tang that some supermarket brands wreck passable salsas with.  The chilli hit is indeed mild, but is very much there with a nice smokey after-taste.  I just knocked through about half a jar and only got a very mild mid-tongue tingle, so this would be a good party salsa, or one to share with friends who aren't as enthusiastic about tooth-enamel-damaging hot sauces as you are.

In summary I'd say this is probably too flavoursome to chuck on nachos, but works just lovely as a dipping salsa.

More here -